Power outages from severe weather have doubled over the past two decades across the U.S., as a warming climate stirs more destructive storms that cripple broad segments of the nation’s aging electrical grid, according to an Associated Press analysis of government data.
Downed power lines slump over a road in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida, Sept. 3, 2021, in Reserve, La.
Forty states are experiencing longer outages – and the problem is most acute in regions seeing more extreme weather, U.S. Department of Energy data shows. The blackouts can be harmful and even deadly for the elderly, disabled and other vulnerable communities.
Smoke from a wildfire called the Saddle Ridge Fire hangs above power lines as the sun rises in Newhall, Calif., Oct. 11, 2019.
Power grid maintenance expenses are skyrocketing as utilities upgrade decades-old transmission lines and equipment. And that means customers who are hit with more frequent and longer weather outages also are paying more for electricity.
Starlin Billiot Sr. washes himself off beside a home where he has been living without power or running water in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida, Sept. 4, 2021, in Dulac, La.
“The electric grid is our early warning,” said University of California, Berkeley grid expert Alexandra von Meier. “Climate change is here and we’re feeling real effects.”
Lynn Mason Courtney, a blind cancer survivor living in a retirement community, speaks to a reporter about the difficulties she has faced from power outages that have hit the retirement community for people with disabilities where she lives, March 9, 2022, in Bethel, Maine.
The number of outages tied to severe weather rose from about 50 annually nationwide in the early 2000s to more than 100 annually on average over the past five years.
Utility crews prepare to work on power lines at dusk on in Litchfield, Maine, Dec. 26, 2013, where many had been without electricity since a storm earlier in the week.
The frequency and length of power failures are at their highest levels since reliability tracking began in 2013 – with U.S. customers on average experiencing more than eight hours of outages in 2020.
Canadian lineman Noah Clowater holds a bilingual stop sign while directing traffic while his coworkers restore power, Nov. 1, 2017, in Yarmouth, Maine.
Maine, Louisiana and California each experienced at least a 50% increase in outage duration even as residents endured mounting interruption costs over the past several years.
Richard Skaff, a paraplegic who is an advocate for the disabled, talks about his backup generator at home in Guerneville, Calif., March 9, 2022.